WASHINGTON, D.C. (WTOL) - A hometown hero was awarded the nation's highest military honor Monday.
Navy Senior Chief Edward Byers, an Ostego High School Graduate, received the Congressional Medal of Honor from President Barack Obama himself.
Byers is only the 6th Navy SEAL to ever earn such an honor.
To begin the ceremony a pray was given, with the Navy SEAL and the President side by side. President Obama then spoke of Senior Chief Byers and his humble nature.
"Standing here today in front of the entire nation is not Senior Chief Ed Byers' idea of a good time. Like so many of our special operators, Ed is defined by a deep sense of humility. He doesn't seek the spotlight. In fact, he shuns it," said President Obama. "Today's ceremony is truly unique, a rare opportunity for the American people to get a glimpse of a special breed of warrior that so often serves in the shadows."
In attendance was Byers' wife, daughter, mother, dozens of cousins, and fellow special operations forces. The President wanting the nation to know where Byers came from.
"As a boy growing up in Grand Rapids, Ohio, Ed would be in the woods in camouflage and in his words, playing military. And I suspect the other kids did not stand a chance," said President Obama. "A boy scout who loved adventure, Ed saw a movie about the Navy SEALS and fell in love with the idea of deploying by sea, air and land."
To a packed crowd in the East Wing, President Obama praised Byers for putting his life on the line during the 2012 Afghanistan mission where Byers helped rescue American hostage Dr. Dilip Joseph, and saved the lives of several of his SEAL team members.
"Fully aware of the danger, Ed moved in next. An enemy guard aimed his rifle right at him. Ed fired. Someone moved across the floor. Perhaps the hostage, perhaps another guard lunging for a weapon. The struggle was hand to hand," said President Obama. "Hearing English, Ed leaped across the room and threw himself on top of the hostage, using his own body to shield him from the bullets. Another enemy fighter appeared and with his body Ed kept shielding the hostage. With his bare hands, Ed pinned the fighter to the wall and held him until his teammates took action."
WATCH Byers' description of the mission here.
With cameras clicking in rapid succession, the President presented the nation's highest honor, putting it around Byers' neck and congratulating him.
After the ceremony, Byers described what the day meant to him.
"I'm grateful that my family, friends, teammates were able to join me today in the White House. It would not be meaningful without being surrounded by the very people that have supported me throughout my life," said Byers.
But Byers doesn't think of himself as a hero. In fact, Byers called the experience truly humbling.
"Today has been a very memorable day in my life.. It is surely something I'll never forget," said Byers.
In the rescue, Byers teammate and friend, Nicholas Cheque, was shot and later died. Byers said Cheque was the true hero of the mission. He will celebrate his life as he moves forward with his own.
"I don't know how this will change my life. I'm just planning on taking it one step at a time. I'm going to continue doing my job with the Navy, continue being a SEAL and doing the things I have loved ever since I was a child," said Byers.
Byers has also earned the Purple Heart twice and the Bronze Star with Valor five times.